Does Knowing Your “Biological Age” Even Matter?
TeloYears claims to be able to help you turn back time, or at least turn back your biological clock, by testing your telomere length and – here’s the catch – selling you supplements based on its findings. You may be wondering, “What the heck are telomeres?” (Don’t worry, you’re not alone.) You can think of them like the plastic caps on the end of your shoelaces that prevent them from fraying. Just as your laces can degrade over time, so can your genes, if you don’t take care of their genetic end-protectors. This DNA testing company has an impressive provenance because it was co-founded by four scientists, including Nobel Prize winner Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn, who won the prize for her study of telomeres (which are the protective caps on the ends of your chromosomes). Like competitor DNA testing companies such as AncestryDNA and MyHeritage, TeloYears also tells you about your ancestry, which is where we’ll start.
Taking the Test
TeloYears’ test kit contains all the things shown here: Although it looks like a lot of stuff, it’s not as complicated as it looks to collect your sample and send it in. In fact, it’s just a four-step process:
- Prick your finger with the finger-prick stick (lancet)
- Dab a drop of blood onto the one-drop blood collection strip
- Put the strip in the yellow-top transport tube
- Send back your sample in the prepaid envelope straight away
Some of you might be a little put off by the fact that you have to collect a small drop of blood rather than submitting a saliva sample. However, the finger prick is not that bad, and some scientists regard blood as a better bodily fluid than saliva for testing telomere length.
A Detailed Look at TeloYears’ Health and Wellness Test
TeloYears’ primary product carries the same name as the company. It examines the length of your telomeres – which are the genetic equivalent of the protective caps on the ends of your shoelaces – to determine your biological age vs. your chronological age. This is an assessment for your overall health and wellness, which is related to critical factors, including:
- Diet and nutrition
- Fitness and exercise
- Sleep and stress
- Age-related disease
When you wear your shoes with the same shoelaces for a long time, the caps wear away and the ends of the laces start to fray. It’s the same with your DNA, which can shorten and degenerate over time. Testing your telomeres can tell you your biological age (and hence your predicted lifespan) which could be quite different from your chronological age (i.e., how long you have been alive): The report will tell you how your average telomere length (ATL) compares with other people of the same age and gender. Your age in “TeloYears” is the average age of a man or woman with a similar ATL to your own. Of course, knowing your biological age is only any use if you can do something about it and turn back the biological clock. This is where the “Blueprint for Aging Well” comes in by providing you with evidence-based suggestions for a healthy life, including:
- Detailed explanations of how stress can shorten your telomere length
- Recommendations for your fitness, diet, sleep, and other factors
- A self-assessment tool to make you more aware of actionable lifestyle factors
Similar Tests to Consider
Since this is a pretty niche product, you won’t find many companies selling the same kind Telomere test. However, you could consider these competitors:
- Helix makes custom recommendations for proactive steps you can take to improve your health, including disease prevention, early detection, and genetic counseling.
Affordable Prices, but Beware the Supplements Sales Pitch
The Advanced Ancestry test is priced competitively. It’s not as affordable as MyHeritage but you’d pay a lot more for FamilyTreeDNA. The flagship TeloYears test is very reasonably priced for something you won’t easily find elsewhere. For example, competitor Life Length charges four times the price for a similar service, but it does include a consultation with a doctor to discuss the results. Some other companies – such as RepeatDX, TeloMe, and SpectraCell Laboratories – provide similar services, but they’re not very accessible to individuals. On the other hand, companies like Helix can provide a wider range of health insights, but come with a higher price tag. You can save some money by buying the Advanced Ancestry and TeloYears tests together rather than separately, and the company occasionally offers coupon codes for additional discounts. If you think this sounds too good to be true, it may be because this company really wants to sell you its Telomere Support supplements, so the DNA testing could be something of a loss-leader. And you have to pay extra for the initial test’s shipping and handling. If you decide to sign up for service, you can only pay using a credit card, and only if you’re an adult (aged 20 to 80) living in the U.S.A. but not in New York State. You can request a refund within 30 days of placing your order.
Satisfactory Self-Support Resources, and Prompt Email Replies
TeloYears provides satisfactory self-support for its primary offering. The comprehensive FAQ section should answer most of your most basic questions, and the Learning Center contains lots of information about telomeres (which is what this company is all about). There is almost no information about the ancestry offerings. For pre-sales support, you can contact this company via its postal address, or by sending an email, or by filling out the online contact form. Alternatively, you could connect via social media, and I noticed that the Facebook page publishes a telephone number. I was pleased to receive same-day answers to my two emailed questions: My first question was to ask if my DNA sample would be processed at TeloYears’ own onsite lab. The answer was a qualified “yes”, as shown above. My second question was to ask about additional costs (e.g., to keep my information on file). The answer told me that the only ongoing costs are for customers who sign up for monthly supplements.
Best for Determining Your Biological Age Rather Than Exploring Your Ancestry
TeloYears isn’t for everyone. If you’re most interested in your ancestry, you might be better off being tested by AncestryDNA, MyHeritage, or 23andMe. These vendors have much larger reference databases and generally offer more ancestry-based features. That said, TeloYears’ sequencing technology means it can (for example) provide impressive resolution for East Asian heritage. TeloYears wins with its flagship telomeres testing that tells your biological age and what to do about it. The only problem is that “what to do about it” might mean signing up for its monthly supplements service. (And not everyone wants to do this!)
How accurate is TeloYears?
How does TeloYears compare to better-known competitors?
Sure, 23andMe, AncestryDNA, and MyHeritage might have a lot more name recognition. However, none of those vendors are currently able to insights about your biological age vs. your chronological age. In fact, TeloYears is one of only a few companies that occupy this niche in the DNA testing market.
What is included in the TeloYear supplements?
A regiment of anti-oxidants, anti-inflammatories, and vitamins that have allegedly been clinically shown to be associated with telomere health and telomerase activity. TeloYears says that this is different from taking regular multi-vitamin supplements because the ingredients in what they offer are specifically geared towards supporting telomere health.
How much does the TeloYears test cost? (Any discounts?)
The price for TeloYear’s Advanced Ancestry test is pretty middle-of-the-road for the industry. It’s 89,00 US$, so, you probably won’t pay as much as you could for Family Tree DNA’s services, which could be a few hundred dollars; but , it won’t be as affordable as MyHeritage, which charges you as little as 79,00 US$.
Who should consider taking a TeloYears test?
You should consider TeloYears if you want individualized insights on how to improve how well your aging, how to maintain whatever lifestyle choices you’re already making that are good for your aging process, and/or if you want to know more about your heritage (specifically if you have Asian or Jewish heritage).